Ducks and geese are getting an early start on migration this year, and anyone interested in catching a glimpse of these birds as they pass through New Hampshire can do so at the Concord-area waterfowl field trip put on by New Hampshire Audubon on Saturday, March 26.
The trip is led by Bob Quinn, owner of Merlin Wildlife Tours based in Warner. Quinn previously worked for New Hampshire Audubon as its first staff ornithologist and continues to help organize bird programs as a volunteer. He’s been guiding the annual Concord-area waterfowl field trip for over 30 years.
“We expect to see the spring migrants … that nest to the north of us, usually in Canada,” Quinn said. “This year is a challenge because it’s such an early spring; the ducks are passing through now with nothing to slow them down. That’s where my decades of experience come in handy, because I know where to go to find them, even if migration has mostly gone through.”
Participants will meet at the New Hampshire Audubon McLane Center in Concord at 2 p.m. Quinn will offer some opening remarks, then give everyone a chance to introduce themselves and share what they’d like to see and do on the trip.
While the trip attracts mostly established hobbyists, Quinn said it’s also a suitable introduction for newbies.
“Brand new birdwatchers are welcome and encouraged [to attend],” he said. “Ducks and geese are a great way to get started because they’re easy to see and identify.”
The group will visit four or five sites over the course of the afternoon, concluding at dusk at a site where ducks are expected to roost. Quinn won’t make a final decision on locations until that morning when he can gauge the environmental conditions, but some of his “tried and true” sites, he said, include Horseshoe Pond, Turtle Pond, Turkey Pond and the Merrimack River.
“The Merrimack River itself has some good backwaters,” he said. “It’s probably the second best place to see ducks and geese migrating — second to Connecticut — so it’s a good place to focus on.”
Participants will carpool to each location, where Quinn will lead them to waterfowl-active areas and point out any visible wildlife. He will have a telescope to share but encourages people to bring their own telescope or binoculars if they have them and share with others who don’t, if they are willing. The amount of time spent at each site depends on the level of waterfowl activity and the number of participants sharing viewing equipment.
According to Quinn, probable bird sightings on the trip include the Canada goose, black duck, wood duck, great blue heron and bald eagle. The American widgeon, gadwall, snow goose and northern pintail have also been seen in the past.
“Even though they come through every year, there’s an element of unpredictability that makes it fun,” he said. “We don’t know what we’ll see that day. We might see something really special or maybe we just get a good quality look at something. Close looks at these birds, they’re just magical.”